A couple of friends and I took the bus from Kigali to Gisenyi in March. There were a couple of conflicting guides on how to get to Gisenyi from Kigali so I’m writing this down for any similarly curious travelers.

From the Nyabugogo Bus Station in Kigali, you can hop on a Ritco bus which will take you to Gisenyi by way of Musanse. See this blog post for photos.

Ritco buses are government run, leave very punctually at the half-hour, and use paper tickets with QR codes. You can buy tickets at the bus station, so no need to buy in advance.

The journey is 4 hours with several stops for restroom breaks. You get to course through the spectacular hills of Rwanda against the background of upbeat Nigerian pop music.

Google Maps thinks there are two bus stops in Gisenyi. In reality, there’s only one: the one next to the DRC border. The other stop is a nondescript location far from hotels and difficult for taxis to locate. Don’t make our mistake! Disembark at the blue dot.

Google Maps Gisenyi bus station

After seeing photos of sambaza kitenge, I went on a fabric shopping spree, dreaming of making a fish-themed quilt.

While I didn’t end up finding the specific print, I learned a lot about buying kitenge in Kigali.

There are two main destinations for buying kitenge: Kimironko Market and Kigali Fabric Market.

Kimironko Market is more of a traditional market, selling everything from household goods to fruits and vegetables. There’s a a group of fabric stalls where vendors hanging their wares on wooden beams. Tailors surround the stalls, ready to turn your purchases into outfits.

Kimironko Market fabric

Kigali Fabric Market is a much smaller market located inside a small building next to the Kigali City Market mall. The selection is significantly better. Kitenge of all designs are piles into tall stacks for your sifting pleasure.

Kigali Fabric Market

If you’re traveling by car, you’ll need to help direct your driver to Kigali Fabric Market. It’s a less known destination. The best landmark is the Kigali City Market mall next door. Since Google Maps doesn’t have great photos of the entrance, here’s a blog post to help you locate it.

Kigali map

Prices at both locations depend on our negotiation skills. They can be as low as 5000 RWF for a 6-yard bundle. I wasn’t as skilled and purchased fabrics at 15000 RWF.

Overall, I prefer Kigali Fabric Market because of its large variety of kitenge. It’s a sewing paradise.

I visited to Rwanda a couple of months ago and tried urwagwa, a local alcoholic drink made from bananas.

I was too timid to purchase homebrew versions at food stalls so I ended up ordering it at at upscale restaurant called Heaven Restaurant.

It tasted like caramelized bananas in a tarte tatin!

urwagwa

crow's nest

A crow built a nest outside our window and a couple of days ago, it laid eggs!

It has been simply delightful watching our crow friend and we’re looking forward to hatchlings.

Nairobi feels different than when I left in 2020. Many shops and restaurants closed. A lucky few expanded.

I was heartbroken to discover metal gates shuttering Silk Noodles and Canton Snacks near Argwings Arcade. They were my favorite Chinese restaurants.

Michael noticed one Google review mentioned Silk Noodles had relocated. So last evening, we ventured out to find the new Silk Noodles.

What we discovered was a Chinatown!

Nairobi Chinatown

chengdu restaurant

chinese real estate

spirits and wines

Chinatown was a massive complex filled with restaurants and specialty shops.

The main grocery store stocked authentic ingredients. They even had zha cai, a vegetable I’d struggled to find in Vancouver!

Dinner at Silk Noodles was delicious, as always.

I went to Nairobi Textiles and got some awesome kitenge fabric. Can’t wait to start sewing with them!

kitenge fabric

Nairobi Textiles is a cool place. It’s a small building with many independent vendors selling fabric from their stalls. A lot of tailors also work there, ready to turn new purchases into custom clothes. The fabric are more expensive there than in Eastleigh but more affordable than say, in Canada.

The atmosphere reminded me a lot of Lotus Pond Market in Chengdu (colorful and crowded). Though, I haven’t visited Lotus Pond Market in over a decade so I’m sure a lot has changed.

If you’re buying fabric in Nairobi, I’d recommend a visit, but allow ample travel time: it’s in the heart of CBD and many Uber drivers don’t pick up there.

I’m having a real “time is circular” moment.

It’s been almost 8 years since I wrote Python scripts to create stuffed animals using 3D models from video games. Now that I’m getting back into sewing, I’m discovering a whole new world of software for pattern makers.

CLO3D is the industry standard, offering advanced cloth simulations.

Valentina is the best open source alternative (GPL3!).

With FOSS tools, some are just as amazing as their non-FOSS counterparts while others are a little lacking. For example, I think Blender is entirely able to replace Maya and 3DS Max for a hobbyist animator. The same is true for Krita replacing Photoshop for illustrators. OpenSCAD and FreeCAD are not quite able to replace Solidworks for engineers.

I have very limited pattern making experience so I’m not a great judge for pattern making software. If cloth simulation is critical, then Valentina needs a lot more features to be able to compete with CLO3D. If cloth simulation isn’t super necessary, maybe Valentina would make an adequate substitute.

Either way, I’m loving learning about the ecosystem around sewing and making clothes. Sewing is a craft that dates back to ancient days and has neat jargon (like armscye). At the same time it’s been really modernized with the industrial clothing supply chain. It also has a fascinating digital component, like the transformation from flat pattern making to pattern making software.

It’s so cool!

I recently picked up sewing as another pandemic hobby. When making my first cami, I realized I needed a loop turner for turning straps inside out. Not having one on hand, I searched for good substitutes. YouTube suggested using chopsticks, safety pins, and bobby pins. Unfortunately, none of them worked.

Harry suggested I use a zip tie. I was initially skeptical but zip ties worked great! You can sew one end to the head of the zip tie and pull without worry!

diy loop turner

Posting this for anyone else who’s too impatient to wait for a loop turner.